Healthy diets come with a variety of potential benefits, including everything from less brain fog to a lower risk of developing certain diseases and chronic conditions. If you generally eat healthily but occasionally indulge in some junk food, you may be sabotaging the benefits you’d otherwise get from your healthy diet, according to a new study from Rush University Medical Center.
The study focused specifically on the Mediterranean diet, which has been the subject of many studies linking it with positive impacts on health. The researchers used data on 5,001 ‘older adults’ who participated in the Chicago Health and Aging Project.
The project aimed to evaluate the participants’ cognitive health by testing them every three years using a cognitive assessment questionnaire. The participants also provided details about which foods they consumed from a list of 144 options.
By analyzing this data, the researchers behind this new study found that participants who closely followed the Mediterranean diet also had slower cognitive decline over the years of the evaluation. On the other hand, participants who consumed more Western diet foods — listed as things like pizza and processed meats — didn’t get any of the cognitive benefits from the healthy foods in their diets.
One of the researchers on the study, Puja Agarwal, Ph.D., said:
The more we can incorporate green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, berries, olive oil, and fish into our diets, the better it is for our aging brains and bodies. Other studies show that red and processed meat, fried food and low whole grains intake are associated with higher inflammation and faster cognitive decline in older ages. To benefit from diets such as the Mediterranean diet, or MIND diet, we would have to limit our consumption of processed foods and other unhealthy foods such as fried foods and sweets.